The Worcester city council is being asked to approve an annual stipend of $1,300 for police officers who wear body-worn cameras. This comes from collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the Worcester police union Local 911 New England Police Benevolent Association.
In February, Richard Cipro, president of the Local 504 police union, asked the city council to delay launching the police body-worn camera program until collective bargaining negotiations were done.
“Our union is in support of the body camera program,” Cipro told the city council. “As we know it will bring transparency, oversight, accountability, while improving public relations and public trust, however, one thing we have been clear and consistent on is that this program is recognized as a change of working conditions which is a mandatory subject to bargaining. The body camera changes policy, processes and scope of work that are the most significant changes to the department in decades.”
The city moved forward, equipping 300 officers with body-worn cameras in late February. In the first two months of the program, Lt. Sean Murtha estimates they’ve recorded thousands of videos and those videos come with additional responsibilities.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
“When they upload the footage, they are going to put the data in, put the incident number in, they have to title every video and they have to watch a certain number of videos, so it does change their workday,” said Murtha.
“I think its something that’s been done not only in Massachusetts but also in other parts of the country as well,” said Kate Toomey, Worcester city councilor and chair of public safety. “I know that they looked at a percentage, I know that they looked at the stipend and it seemed to be fair and reasonable.”
If approved, the stipends could add $390,000 in annual salary costs.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
“In my opinion, I would love to see monies used for other things that are more productive because I feel that many of us when it was presented I didn’t know along with other councilors that that was something that we were going to have to add to the budget adding stipends,” said City Councilor Sarai Rivera.
“I’m kind of mixed about paying the police a little over a hundred bucks a month to wear the body cameras,” said Worcester NAACP president Fred Taylor. “I believe these body cameras not only protect the citizens but they are there to protect to police officers also, so my mix is I see the body cameras as another piece of equipment, part of the uniform, part of some of the equipment they use to do their job.”
Worcester City Council had been expected to vote on an agreement Tuesday night, but it was put on hold.
This discussion comes as the city is negotiating a contract with the Educational Association of Worcester. EAW President Melissa Verdier said, “EAW has been looking to the city to provide more than the bare minimum of operational spending that they are required to do. We were told there is no more money to give to education. It’s disappointing to see that there is money to spend in other areas.”
The Worcester City Manager’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
If the salary amendment agreement is approved by the Worcester City Council, eligible officers would receive the first payment of $650 within 30 days of the agreement to cover the period from January 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023. Effective July 1, each Local 911 bargaining unit member on active payroll would receive an annual $1,300 stipend. The stipend will count towards the members’ retirement.
Get updates on what's happening in Massachusetts to your inbox. Sign up for our News Headlines newsletter.